The Backcountry

Daniel Boone leading Scots-Irish settlers in the Backcountry

Daniel Boone leading Scots-Irish settlers in the Backcountry

This article on the Backcountry of Colonial America provides facts and information about:

  • Backcountry: The Meaning and Definition of the Backcountry
  • The first settlers in the Backcountry
  • Daniel Boone and the Cumberland Gap
  • The Scots-Irish settlers
  • The removal of the Five Civilised tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminole, Creek and Chickasaw) from the Backcountry
  • The history of the Backcountry
American Colonies Index
Life in Colonial Times

History of the first 13 Colonies and how they became the United States

The colonization of America and the lives of the early colonists and settlers during the Colonial Period

Definition of the Backcountry
The Meaning and Definition of the Backcountry: The Backcountry is a term used to describe a wilderness or remote, isolated areas that are difficult to access with primitive trails, “off the beaten track”. A Backcountry is a territory that is not within the recognized boundary line of existing regions. The word Backcountry was used to describe the uncolonized lands in North America during the period of colonialism.

The Backcountry - The First Settlers
The location of the American backcountry lay beyond the colonies in the American region now referred to as Appalachia. The Backcountry stretched all along the western borders of the colonies. The Appalachian Mountains are a system of mountains in eastern North America. As the 13 colonies began to fill European immigrants began pushing further westward into the lands around the Appalachian Mountains. Between 1730 and 1763 European immigrants slowly started to move into west Pennsylvania and west Maryland and the Shenandoah Valley area of Virginia.


Map of Appalachian mountains - the Backcountry

Map of Appalachian mountains - the Backcountry

The Backcountry 1750 - The Cumberland Gap
The Cumberland gap was discovered by Dr. Thomas Walker in 1750. The Cumberland gap is a pass through the Cumberland Mountain region of the Appalachian Mountains and is located just north of the spot where the modern states of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia meet. The Cumberland Gap pass was named in honor of Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, is 12 miles long (19 km) and was formed naturally by an ancient creek.

Map showing the  Cumberland Gap

Map showing the Cumberland Gap in the Backcountry

The Backcountry 1763 - Treaties with the Native American Indians
The year of 1763 was a momentous one in American History. 1763 marked the end of the French and Indian Wars (1688-1763). The British were the victors and France ceded its North American territory to Great Britain. The British immediately issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763 which was designed to calm the fears of Native Indians by halting the westward expansion by colonists. The controversial Proclamation Line along the Appalachian Mountains and Backcountry resulted in a massive border, or Boundary Line to safeguard Indian lands and territories and repay the Native Indians who had helped the British during the war. The boundary line was quickly adjusted due to the vehement protests of the colonists and a series of treaties were made with Backcountry Native American Indians. The Peace treaties with the Native Indians attracted settlers deeper into the mountains of the backcountry to upper east Tennessee, northwestern North Carolina, upstate South Carolina and central Kentucky.

The Backcountry 1769 - Daniel Boone and the Cumberland Gap
Daniel Boone is one of the most famous of all the American frontiersmen. In 1769 Daniel Boone traveled along the wilderness trails and through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky with five other frontiersmen and explorers. It was Daniel Boone who blazed the "Wilderness Road" through the Appalachians into Kentucky opening the Backcountry to more European immigrants

Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers through the Cumberland Gap

Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers through the Cumberland Gap in the Backcountry

The Backcountry - The Scots-Irish Settlers
The largest proportion of the early Backcountry immigrants were "Scots-Irish" settlers. These Scots-Irish settlers were poor and had originated in Scotland from where they fled to the Ulster region of Northern Ireland to escape religious prosecution. They were not Irish - their name arose to distinguish as Scots living in Ireland. These determined people first migrated from their native Scottish lowlands to northern Ireland and then traveled on to the New World and the Backcountry. The Scots-Irish hated living under British rule and turned to America and the cheap lands and the freedom of the Backcountry where they could live as far away as possible from the English crown and the Anglican Church. The Scots-Irish also wanted to distance themselves from the English Puritans and Quakers who considered them to be "savages." In 1745, Colonel James Patten from Donegal, Ireland, obtained 100,000 acres in the Backcountry covering the Blue Ridge mountains and the Appalachia regions and sold parcels of land to other Scots-Irish settlers. The explorations of Daniel Boone and opening of the "Wilderness Road" drew even more Scots-Irish to settle in the southern Appalachian valleys of the Backcountry.

The Backcountry: 1790 - 1784
The Backcountry opened up still further between the years of 1790 and 1840 when additional peace treaties opened up lands in the Cumberland Plateau regions, north Georgia, north Alabama, the Tennessee Valley and the Great Smoky Mountains.

The last of these treaties culminated in the removal of the Five Civilised Tribes.  President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act into law in 1830 which authorized the negotiation of treaties to buy tribal lands in the east in exchange for lands further west, which ultimately led to the infamous Trail of Tears. Between 1831 and 1838 the Cherokee Nation together with the Choctaw, Seminole, Creek and Chickasaw were forced from their homelands in the Backcountry to distant Indian reservations.


  • Interesting Facts and information about Backcountry

  • Backcountry history

  • Fast Facts and info about Backcountry timeline

  • The Backcountry article is a great history resource for kids

  • Social Studies Homework help for kids on the Backcountry

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